Nov. 19, 2018

“The Neurorobotics Platform will help us to connect our brain model of the peripersonal space to the humanoid body”

"Getting to know our new collaborators personally definitely helped us to establish working cooperation”, Zdenek Straka, an early career researcher of the RobotBodySchema project, explained to FECYT, coordinator of the SCOPE project.

November 6th, 2018. Last October 19th , first steps to strengthen the collaboration between RobotBodySchema project and researchers of Human Brain Project (HBP) Neurorobotics Platform were taken at Maastricht with the occasion of the HBP Summit 2018. Zdenek Straka and Jiri Stepanovsky, young researchers of the RobotBodySchema project, were invited to attend the scientific meeting of that HBP Platform. 

RobotBodySchema (Robot self-calibration and safe physical human-robot interaction inspired by body representations in primate brains) is a Partnering Project (PP) of the HBP, coordinated at Czech Technical University in Prague by Matej Hoffmann. Can a robot notice a sensation of touch and identify the part of the body in which it has happened? This is precisely what Hoffmann and his team have achieved.

Thanks to the thousands of sensors that make up the artificial skin of the humanoid and the development of a new algorithm, the engineer and PhD student Zdenek Straka has succeeded in making the robot develop and learn a map of the surface of its skin -called homunculus- similar to that generated by the human brain and that of other primates.

Illustration of the iCUB in the ) Neurorobotics Platform

Tests of development and representations of parietal and frontal cortex have been put in place.

RobotBodySchema have started using the Neurorobotics platform – in particular the iCub humanoid robot simulation and tactile processing  – to test of development and operation of body representations, in particular in parietal and frontal cortex. “The platform is very useful in our work on connecting a body of a humanoid robot to our brain-inspired neural network for peripersonal space (space that immediately surrounds the body) representation. It will help us to connect our brain model of the peripersonal space to the humanoid body”, explained Straka.

As Straka commented, “our team are in need of first-hand data from the neurosciences related to body representations and can provide in turn a robotic test-bed for hypotheses and mechanisms. Our work will facilitate the embedding of the brain simulation into a closed sensorimotor loop, through instantiation in a humanoid robot with similar morphology and sensorimotor capacities to humans”.

Their research is tighly linked with the HBP NRP simulations. “We most actively collaborate with the Robotics and Embedded Systems group from Technical University Munich (TUM). Collaboration is expected to be extended to other teams. We are also providing feedback to the NRP developers and we believe that our results will be also useful for the other users of the platform and SP10 scientists”, Straka concludes.

Fostering the mutual benefits of the Partnering Projects and Associated Members within the Core projects of the HBP

Partnering Projects (PPs) are research and/or innovation projects funded by regional, national, European and other sources (e.g., private industry). The concept of a PP was introduced by the EC to define the principles by which research teams or organisations, which are not part of the HBP consortium, can be integrated by providing flexible and efficient mechanisms to perform research and innovation activities, which are in line with the overall HBP objectives and be of mutual benefit to all parties.

Being part of the partnering environment bring research collaborations in areas of mutual interest and engagement in roadmapping, among other benefits. The SCOPE project is the Coordination and Support Action funded by the EC to enhance the HBP PP environment.

Travel grants and communication support

SCOPE have supported the travel and registration costs to the HBP Summit 2018 of both researchers of the RobotBodySchema Project, Straka and Stepanovsky, within the grant scheme available for HBP PPs.

and since its inception last year, SCOPE has awarded 12 grants within the support available for young and senior researchers involved in HBP Partnering Projects. SCOPE currently has more than 30 financial grants with an approximate budget of € 50,000 for financing expenses linked to travelling to congresses, workshops or meetings organized by HBP, as well as visits to laboratories by research personnel.

Also by communicating their research results to the society and the media, in collaboration with the HBP communication channels, SCOPE is helping to raise awareness about the accomplishment of the HBP goals in terms of scientific leadership, economical and societal benefits. To accomplish this, FECYT counts with the participation of SINC, its scientific news agency, which deals with the communication of the results of 26 projects and institutions associated with HBP. So far, SINC has written 10 news items and interviews that have been published in the communication channels of HBP (website, social media and newsletters).

Further information:

Partnering Projects:

Communication support and grants:

Sara García-Rodríguez  (Communication Manager, SCOPE project).

RobotBodySchema project